Episode – Gorilla on a Mini Moto

The City of Threads logo is square in shape with the words City of Threads situated in the centre; black text on white background. Fine red wiggly lines emanate out from the title words, tracing fragments of actual journeys featured in the podcast.

with co-hosts Nikki Durston and Jeff Daniels


In this episode you’ll meet Nikki and Jeff, and Marc and Clare with her guide dog Sparkle, as they all head off on their journeys into the city. Expect a Gorilla [of the title], a vanishing helicopter, the parting of the red seas of people and a drum kit on the way home. Featured theme; V.I. tech and the Digital City.

People featured

Featuring journeys taken by Nikki with her travelling companion Rosa Martyn, Jeff with his travelling companion Aimee England, Marc Gulwell and his travelling companion Letty Clarke and Clare Finnimore with her travelling companion Esther Wells

Stephen Hilton, Guest contributor: Steve is founder and director of City Global Futures, a smart city consultancy with a creative outlook. For more info on Steve’s company Click Here

Marc Gulwell, Senior sight support advisor at Sight Support West. To read the blog Marc mentions in the episode which is published in the Huffingdon Post Click Here

Organisations featured

Sight Support West; to find out more about the West’s leading sight support charity where Marc is senior sight loss advisor Click Here

Paraorchestra; [previously the British Paraorchestra] Paraorchestra is the world’s first large-scale integrated virtuoso ensemble of professional disabled and non-disabled musicians.

Paraorchestra’s mission is to redefine what an orchestra can be. Removing the barriers that prevent disabled musicians – including visually impaired – from playing at their very best with a world-class orchestra. ‘We see it as an extraordinary and perfectly synchronised body of instruments that draws on the tradition of centuries but is enriched and expanded by the talents, the instruments and the zeitgeist of the 21st century’.

For more info on Paraorchestra and to visit their website Click Here

For more info on the Haptic Baton Click Here

The Paraorchestra excerpt featured in the episode is from ‘kraftwerk re:werk’, a reimagining of Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express album. Produced and performed by Paraorchestra.

Composers Charlotte Harding and Lloyd Coleman.

Conducted by Charles Hazlewood and Recorded at Bristol Beacon in 2017. 

For more info on the krafterwrk re:werk project Click Here

 Pervasive Media Studio: For more info on Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio where Steven Hilton and PECo theatre are both residents Click Here. 

Themes and issues raised

Retinitis Pigmentosa: To find out more about this group of eye conditions Click Here

Social life and Community: for more info on Sight Support West organised socials, advice and sporting events Click Here

Guide Dogs for the Blind: for more info about Guide dogs Click Here

Access to Work: for more info on the employment support programme that aims to help disabled people start or stay in work Click Here

Digital placemaking: to find out more about Steven Hilton’s digital placemaking fellowship Digital Breadcrumbs: Click Here

Digital City Digital Placemaking: to download the ‘Rebooting the Digital City’ report written by Steven Hilton on the subject Click here

Places and spaces visited

The Galleries: for more info on Nikki’s sensory delight shopping mall Click Here

Bristol Bridge: for more info on the bridge where Nikki and and Rosa stop in the episode Click Here

The Fleece: for more info on one of Nikki’s  favourite live music venues Click Here

Bristol Cathedral: for info on the city’s cathedral and venue for Jeff’s graduation Click Here

Bristol Beacon: [formerly known as Colston Hall] for more info on this leading Music venue visited by Jeff in his journey Click Here  

Hippodrome: for more info on the venue where Jeff brought his daughters to their first ballet Click Here

St Georges: for more info on this well loved music venue visited by Jeff and where the Haptic baton was tried out Click Here


Podcast Starts

Narrator: In October 2019 a team of visually impaired and sighted artists and collaborators took journeys together into the city of Bristol, with the aim of uncovering the usually unheard stories of visually impaired citizens and returning these stories to the heart of the city narrative.

 The journeys were recorded and revealed such a treasure trove of insights and shared experiences that the City of Threads podcast was born.

 Each episode is hosted by core members of that team, and features the journeys they took.

 So, join us on an immersive audio journey into the City of Threads.

 Welcome to ‘Gorilla on a Mini Moto’.

Sound design: Logo and theme music weaves through the following audio fragments:

Nikki: And it is such a contrast for me when I look around. It’s like capturing one little thing, at a time. 

Jeff: I am one of those people with a cane, I class myself as a whacker: ‘Ching, hit the bin, bang, hit the bus stop, bang’.

Marc: Drum kit on your way home [Laughter]. 

Letty: You finished your milkshake? 

Marc: I have nearly, it’s very nice. 

Letty: It’s good right? 

Marc: It’s very moreish! 

Clare: I’ll just warn you she can go into melt down if she’s frightened by noise. 

Esther: OK. 

Clare: Which means she just has an instant poo on the pavement! [Laughter].

Aimee: Yeah the electronic violinist. I love her. ‘Ta da diddle diddle da da’! 

Jeff: The rustling of leaves and different sounds and different smells, that to me is music. 

Sound design: Segue from peppering of sounds into journey music theme.

Nikki and Rosa – Pre Intro Excerpt 

Nikki: Now Just above that you can see some balconies and windows and that belongs to Bristol Youth Foyer. Which is a place for young people eighteen to twenty-five who are homeless. And about fifteen years ago, maybe a little bit longer, my son had a room there, more or less up above the pizza sign is the balcony to the room he used to stay in. I had gone to visit him one day, and I was standing out on that little balcony and he was making an internal phone call to the maintenance team to report something that had gone wrong. So I was standing out there by myself. And all of a sudden from Baldwin Street there came a gorilla on a mini moto [Rosa laughs].

Sound design: The sound of a gorilla riding a mini moto through Bristol. 

Nikki: [cont.] who came speeding out of Baldwin Street, across here and then disappeared across the park. I was absolutely stunned, and my son walked into the room and he looked at me and he said, “what’s wrong?” so, I said to him ‘I’ve just seen a gorilla on a mini moto’ and he said “ah right, well I’ve reported that repair’ [Laughter] So clearly that is a normal thing to be going on around this area on a daily basis [Rosa laughing].

Intro and Co-hosts’ First Moment 

Sound design: Return to music.

Jeff: That was Nikki Durston and her travelling companion Rosa on their journey into the city, as part of our City of Threads project. 

Nikki: And he’s Jeff Daniels, and we are your co-hosts for this episode called ‘Gorilla on Mini Moto’.

Jeff: You’ll be following the journeys that Nikki and I took through Bristol. 

Nikki: And encountering a few others along the way. 

Jeff: Right let’s get started. First up it’s Nikki.

Sound design: Journey music segues into first audio of Nikki.

Intro to Nikki, Rosa – Pre Journey at Arnolfini

Rachel: Thank you, so who’s that then? 

Nikki: Rosa, she’s popped out for a ciga… that was my fault because I was torturing her by smoking as I was walking back [Everybody laughs]. And 

Narrator: Nikki and her travelling companion Rosa are at Arnolfini. Rosa works at Arnolfini. Earlier in the week she’d been given some sighted guiding training with Nikki, but today they are about to set off on their journey into the city. 

Rosa: We have got quite a bright day today. 

Nikki: We have got a bright day, so I will be wearing sunglasses today. 

Narrator: Nikki lets Rosa know what her specific guiding requirements are. 

Nikki: I use a long cane when I’m out by myself. I tend to, if I’m being guided, I tend to lift that up off of the ground because I don’t think it’s very easy for two people to synchronise their stride and their steps. And I always worry that I’m going to trip my guide. So, I like to hold on to my guide’s right arm, I keep my cane in my right arm. I kind of hold it in front of me and just to the side.

Narrator: And the kinds of obstacles that she wants Rosa to keep an eye out for.

Nikki: The things I need to be told about is anything that’s coming out into the path: bins, A-boards, hanging baskets or branches that may be lower down, and definitely small children and dogs. 

Rosa: Are they the worst?

Nikki: I am so scared that I am going to knock a child over, and sometimes members of the public, that can see that you are walking along and swinging a cane, and they think oh I’ll just nip across in front of that person. I’ve had people jump over the cane. 

Rosa: Sharp intake of breath, Oh wow!

The Journey Begins

Narrator: Prepped and ready for anything! Rosa and Nikki set off.

Sound design: Moves us outside into the street.

Nikki: So we’ve just stepped outside of the Arnolfini and already it is a sensory delight. There’s lots of people around so you’ve got the bustle of that, and the flute music that you can hear. It always distracts me when I walk along this way, it’s really lovely to listen to it.

Narrator: Nikki and Rosa head off, down the cobbled street, under the trees that line the river front, past Pero’s bridge, that connects one side of the harbour with the other, avoiding the worst of the root disturbed pavements, then on past the shared space of the city centre, to Nikki’s first stopping point.

Nikki Backstory – Poems as a Little Girl 

Sound design: Captures the city sounds then segues into soundscape of poem.

Nikki reading poem –  ‘A V.I. Journey’: 

I’ll now perform the daring feat, 

of walking down an urban street, 

where lurks uneven paving stone 

and rampant hedges over grown, 

recycle boxes hide in dark, 

a line of cars on pavement parked, 

a silent cyclist overtakes, 

no lights, no bell, no thought, no brakes. 

Then cautiously I cross the place, 

innocuously called Shared Space, 

no clues encountered by my cane, 

a wilderness, 

a V.I.’s bane,

Co-host Jeff: Nikki has been writing poems since she was a little girl. 

Nikki: I’ve always enjoyed writing, I learned to read really early, I enjoyed it so much that it was something I did all the time by myself and with my mother and because I’d enjoyed the stories I started to write my own even when I was still in primary school. And about a year ago my dad passed me a very crumpled and yellowed piece of paper with a poem on it that I had written when I was nine years old and I couldn’t believe that he still had it after all this time. 

Nikki’s Poem – ‘A V.I. Journey’ [cont.]:  

and when at last I reach the end, 

down darkened steps I must descend,

 their number vital to recall, 

reducing risk of frightening fall,

Co-host Jeff: She lost interest a bit when she became a teenager. 

Nikki: I didn’t have a great deal of time for poetry during my teens, you know, teenagers do different things, but I did write some poems that were mainly tongue in cheek, things about my friends, and it was just a bit of gentle teasing. 

Co-host Jeff: But she came back to it as an adult and now.

Nikki: I feel as if they write themselves, it will be an issue, or a subject which keeps recurring, it’s something that keeps coming up, and so I’ve had time to think about these things and then suddenly a poem will emerge from that. 

Nikki’s Poem – ‘A V.I. Journey’ [cont.]:

safe once again and back in light,

 initially it seems too bright, 

and then a private celebration, 

I have reached my destination.

Sound design: Segue out of soundscape of poem into soundscape of The Galleries shopping mall.

City Journey – The Galleries 

Sound design: Captures the sound of The Galleries and the sensory descriptions below.

Narrator: Nikki and Rosa arrive at Nikki’s first stop, The Galleries, a busy shopping mall situated in the Broadmead shopping centre. 

Nikki: And this is my place of sensory delight. The smells in this place are so varied. When we came in through the top entrance we could smell the pasties and all the bakery things, and then as you move down, depending on which shops you’re walking past, you might be smelling perfumes or walking past the food court, there’s all the lovely foodie smells. And then downstairs there’s a posh coffee shop, where you could really smell the coffee down there. So yeah, this is a place of smells [Laughter].

Sound design: Shifts as we move into memories of her as little girl.

Nikki: When I was a little girl, well actually up until I was in my early twenties, this place wasn’t here. It was a place called Fairfax House. Which was kind of like a department store. I remember this place being built 1989 – 1990, and it was different, because rather than it being one big department store, it was, as it is now, lots of individual shops and it was quite exciting and it was all big and spacious and it was a very bustling place to be. And so that top entrance that we walked in, where I showed you the bridge looking over. That corridor that we now walk through, it was windows from floor to ceiling. And as a child it was the most terrifying walk ever. When I look at the distance across now, it’s not really that far, but as a small child that felt like this really long, dangerous, scary place to walk across.

Sound design: Immersive moment of feeling that long, dangerous place to walk across creates segue to Nikki’s childhood memory of fields of pitch black.

Nikki’s Sight Loss Story

Narrator: With the benefit of hindsight Nikki can look back now and pinpoint moments that were clues to her sight being different. As a teenager:

Nikki: We had green spaces around us and it would get dark early in the winter as it does and we’d take a shortcut home across the field and all my friends would just stride out across this field but to me it was like being in a coal cellar or something. I could not see anything at all and I used to get quite cross that everybody else was being so reckless and striding out across this dangerous and unsure space. 

Narrator: And even younger, in primary school. 

Sound design: Merges into school classroom and playground, sounds of a helicopter.

Nikki: I remember being out in the playground in primary school and I can hear a helicopter and all of the other children are jumping up and down and pointing to the helicopter and I couldn’t find it in the sky. I looked and looked and looked, and I couldn’t find it but I didn’t find that unusual because that was how things were for me and I never talked about it to anybody, again, it was just a normal thing and it didn’t occur to me that that was a problem. 

Narrator: Nikki was in her thirties when a routine eye appointment threw up some issues, and she was advised to go to her GP to get a referral to the eye hospital. 

Nikki: I’ve heard this story in a lot in people that started to lose their sight later in life, when you are already an adult, you’re kind of in some sort of denial, because you’ve been coping up until that point and so therefore in your head you can see. And so I didn’t act on it. Ten years went by and I hadn’t acted on it at all. 

City Journey – Galleries

Sound design: Takes us back to the sounds of the shopping centre.

Narrator: Back in the galleries, Nikki and her travelling companion Rosa. 

Nikki: And when my daughter was a little girl, there were loads of places in here she liked to shop. Claire’s Accessories, I think, is still on the ground floor, and as a little girl, that, you know, that’s an Aladdin’s cave isn’t it? So I think it was this place that gave her, her love of shopping. 

Narrator: Nikki and Rosa make their way out of the galleries, to Nikki’s second stopping point.  

Sound design: Segues us out of galleries and on to Castle Park.  

Castle Park – Looking Through Nikki’s Eyes

Nikki: So this is on the corner of Castle Park and Bristol bridge.

Sound design: Reprise of the sound of a gorilla riding a mini moto through Bristol.

Narrator: The place where Nikki saw the gorilla on a mini moto from the balcony of her son’s rooms.

Co-host Jeff: When I heard Nikki tell that story. It just brought a memory back to me, when I was crossing Bedminster bridge and right past me, a gorilla on a mini moto.

Sound design: Sound of gorilla on moto zooms through Jeffs last words.

Co-host Jeff: Same place, same time, in Bristol. 

Narrator: And it’s where our travellers now pause, looking out over the river, so that Nikki can show Rosa how to see what she sees.

But before they do that, we need to know that ten years after first being told she needed to go to her GP for a referral, Nikki finally went to the eye hospital and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa or RP, which amongst other things, affects Nikki’s peripheral vision, so whilst she has very good central vision, she can’t see anything at all that’s happening around the edges. 

Nikki: We’re facing the river, just looking over the railings and, Rosa, if you cup your hands around your eyes. So now you’ve blocked out your peripheral, the ferry boat is just about to come past, so if you look at that. You can see that but nothing else, and then as it passes by you’re now just looking at the water with all the ripples coming across it. That’s all you can focus on. But then if you turn your head to the right, and look up, you’ve got all that traffic coming past and all that busyness going on across the bridge. And it is such a contrast for me when I look around, because I have to turn my head to see these different views. But it’s like capturing one little thing at a time. 

Sound design: The sound of water, the busy bridge, the movement of people, the ferry boat.

Clare – Creative Writing and Guide Dogs

Sound design: Segues from Castle Park’s city sounds into the sound of birds, nature, as described below:

Clare [reading her writing]: The intoxicating heart beat of the forest with its cicadas, frogs and beating rain, like standing in a full on shower, separated only by insect screen and slats of window blinds.

Clare: And one of the reasons I write is to capture something for myself, so for example when I have been out in Australia and just so loved it, the only way I could think of keeping that memory was to actually to write it. 

Narrator: That’s Clare, a fellow journey taker. Nikki and Clare share a common thread of writing and are having a conversation over zoom about why and how they write, some months after their city journeys took place.

Nikki: This theme will keep recurring and then suddenly I’m sitting down and I’m writing a poem. So it always astonishes me when I write something that people have really enjoyed and that they’ve, you know, come to me afterwards and said ‘wow I really like that’. 

Clare: Well that’s worth such a lot Nikki. 

Nikki: Yes.

Clare: I mean, I just happened to fall into this really and I found it was something I really enjoy doing and I think for me, I will have some kind of weird idea hatching in my head for perhaps quite a long time and then I will have to write it down. 

Nikki: Mmm yes. 

Clare: So, it sounds bit similar.

Narrator: Nikki asked Claire about her background.

Clare: I’m proud of being born in Essex, my parents were both Londoners. I worked as an occupational therapist for many years and had loads of inoculations for all sorts of things, but then one particular vaccine of that particular batch was not good for me and I had a bad reaction. Both my optic nerves were affected. So my life completely changed over one weekend in January in 2010.

Narrator: Clare is the only traveller in our City of Threads who isn’t a Bristol resident. On the day she joined our group to take a city journey, she had travelled in from her home in Gloucestershire, with her guide dog Sparkle.

Clare: And I’ve got a guide dog. This is Sparkle, at my feet and I hope she is going to behave [Laughter].

Narrator: She began by telling Esther, her travelling companion for the day, about Sparkle and her quirks. 

Clare: The dog is quite greedy, and looking out for stuff on the pavements, she’s not as good a guide dog as she might be and if the dog needs to have a wee she’ll indicate that. 

Esther: OK. 

Clare: So we might find a green space outside, that would be quite good. 

Esther: OK. Umm. 

Clare: ‘Cos that’s what she’d prefer and I’m sure we’ll find somewhere.

Narrator: Possibly a few more quirks than Esther had bargained for.

Clare: I’ll just warn you she can go into meltdown if she’s frightened by noise. 

Esther: OK. 

Clare: Which means she just has an instant poo on the pavement. 

Esther: OK, good to know! [Laughter]. 

Clare: Sorry, things are very basic when you have a guide dog.

Narrator: Toilet training aside, travelling with a dog through the city is very different to travelling with a sighted guide.

Clare: I do take notice of exactly how the dog is feeling so you are like one unit actually, although we might seem very [Laughs] haphazard, you and your dog are one unit working together. 

Sound design: Shifts space into the sounds of the journey.

Narrator: For Clare it is a useful opportunity to travel with her guide dog around a city she doesn’t know well with someone like Esther, who does. Together they discover some of the many green spaces in the centre of the city, brave the busy city centre shared space which, like most of our other travellers, Clare finds a challenging and scary place to be, and end up at the Bristol Old Vic, which Clare has chosen as a stopping point, as it’s where she meets with a writers group. Whilst they are there:

Waiter: Hello what’s your name? 

Esther: This is Sparkles. 

Clare: You’re not really meant to talk to her. 

Waiter: Ah sorry. I know you’re not supposed to pet them but.

Clare: No, you’re doing really well, that’s alright.

Narrator: Navigating with Sparkle is a working partnership. Every guide dog and prospective owner goes through a whole training process to get to the stage where they are fine-tuned enough to work safely together. Any distraction can be potentially dangerous to owner or dog. Even so, many find it hard to resist. 

Back on Nikki and Clare’s zoom call. 

Clare: I was in our local M&S, which is a food shop, and some woman, I could see she was wearing a big hat, and she gave my dog something to eat, and said something, I can’t remember what, it was at the checkout and I said, ‘you know, how would you like it, if I gave your child something to eat and you didn’t know what it was?’. 

Nikki: Yeah. 

Clare: And then I think I had to go back for something the next day and the girl on the checkout said ‘I remember you, you really told her’ [Both laugh] but yeah, I was just so shocked that people could think that the dog was, in a way, their responsibility. 

Narrator: Clare’s thinking is that better integration will lead to better understanding. 

Claire: Don’t segregate people who have a visual impairment from the rest of society, we are a bit apt to do that at the moment, like with elderly people, to say elderly people this way. That just doesn’t work. Because we are all one society, we want to get on. Just a few small changes would make a huge difference.

Narrator: Nikki and Clare found many threads of connection in their conversation, not just their writing, they both love music and play some, although neither will admit to being any good. 

Clare: I wish I were a better musician, I try and play the piano, if I could do that then that’s what I would do but I’m just not good enough. When I wrote about this time in Australia, I managed to get some recordings of birdsong in the early morning in Queensland. 

Nikki: Oh wow. 

Clare: That was the sound I was trying to get. That was the feeling that I had when I was with those particular people. That was the feeling of being on the beach, then. And I never want to lose it and so that’s really why I write.

Sound design: Immersive birdsong from Queensland at dawn and Claire’s writing.

Clare [Reading her writing]: Purest musical notes, lyrebird and boobok, harsh rooster cries, and cacophony of kookaburras wakes me soon after dawn, and I laugh delightedly to myself at the sense of belonging.

City Journey – The Fleece 

Sound design: Segue from Australia and birdsong to the city journey. 

Narrator: Back in the city journey, Nikki and Rosa have left Bristol bridge and are just turning off a main road, into a cobbled cul-de-sac. 

Nikki: This is The Fleece. Spent many a happy evening down here with my cousin.

Narrator: We’re at the final stop on Nikki’s journey. The Fleece is a music venue, in an old Grade Two listed warehouse, that used to be a sheep trading market, hence the name. 

Nikki: We’ve seen some amazing tribute bands, we’ve seen a few originals as well. We’ve seen Space, don’t know if you’ve heard of them. 

Rosa: Oh what the band space, as in ‘Female of the Species’? 

Nikki: Yeah. 

Rosa: Wow, oh wow [Laughter].

Nikki: So, we used to come here and then we’d stay for the disco at the end. So you’ve got all the students in then, and they used to think it was great that there were these two old guys down there.

Nikki: But I found myself one time, I was at home in the kitchen and I’m stirring two cups of coffee. And I suddenly thought ‘how did I get here?’. It’s just I suddenly found myself making these coffees so I turned round and my cousin was there with this big happy smile on his face. And I asked ‘cuz, how did we get home?’ and his smile just dropped off of his face. And he said ‘what’s the last thing you remember?’ And when I stopped to think about I said ‘nothing’. I had gone completely… we had drunk so much, and neither of us could remember anything. So, we’re looking for clues now. So, he’s emptied his pockets out and the pocket he normally keeps his change in, had nothing but tenpence pieces in, no other coins, just tenpence pieces! And he said to me ‘have you got your cane?’, So I went out and looked in the hallway and yeah, it was there, in the place where I usually, but it was upside down. So we spent the whole week really worried trying to figure out what had happen on this night, and we said, ‘we’re going to have to go back down and find out what happened’. So we’ve come around this corner here. And the doormen all turn round and say ‘Ayyy!’ [Laughter] and we said, we wondered if there was anything we needed to apologise for, And our favourite guy, turned round to my cousin and he said ‘you were really entertaining’, ‘was I?’, and he said ‘what about her?’ and he smiled at me he said ‘you were great’ and I thought ‘oh my god, what does that mean?’. 


Nikki: I do have to just clarify here Jeff I don’t always get as drunk as that, that is a very unusual night. 

Jeff: So what happened at the end of the story? 

Nikki: Well I didn’t find out what I had done that had been so great but I did find out that my cousin had been pole dancing!

Sound design: Music plays amid laughter and applause.

Narrator: Meanwhile, Nikki and Rosa have returned to Arnolfini where the connection they forged on their journey results in uncovering a new understanding.

Nikki: After our journey, Rosa said that she was surprised to hear that visually impaired people go out and drink one too many! 

Nikki: So, you thought we were all sensible and sober. 

Rosa: Well not necessarily completely sensible or completely sober but like perhaps more so than many of my close friends I guess [Laughter].

Social Life and Community

Co-host Nikki: It quite surprised me when Rosa said that, it wasn’t something I was expecting, because we know that we do things the same as everybody else does. It hadn’t occurred to me that other people might think we do things differently. 

Co-host Jeff: We do live our lives the same as anybody else, we have to, let’s just say, we have to navigate it differently, that’s all. 

Narrator: Sight loss can be an isolating experience. It can take time to adjust and find the confidence to get out there. Having a support network makes all the difference. 

Letty: You finished your milkshake? 

Marc: I have nearly, it’s very nice 

Letty: It’s good right? 

Marc: It’s very moreish! 

Narrator: This is fellow City of Threads traveller Marc Gulwell, and his journey companion Letty Clarke, on their city journey. 

Marc: One of my main roles when I came here was to create events, meeting spaces for people with sight loss and find venues that were accessible for people to come to.

Narrator: Marc is the man to go to if you want to find out what’s going on in Bristol. Marc is the reason that Nikki met Jeff, and Jeff is the reason that Nikki joined this project.

Nikki: And they’d said to me, this guy is working for Vision West of England.

Narrator: Now called Sight Support West.

Nikki: [Cont.] you really need to get in contact with him if you want some activities to do in Bristol, he’s the guy.

Marc: I actually met Nikki, not in the pub social but actually at a sports event, wasn’t it Nikki?

Narrator: They met at a V.I. cricket taster day where Marc told Nikki:

Nikki: We do have a monthly social meeting at The Sportsman and I remember that the first person that he introduced me to when I go there Jeff, was you! 

Jeff: Yes, it was [Laughs].

Narrator: Here’s Marc, Nikki and Jeff talking about the socials Marc organises as part of his role at Sight Support West, and the importance of community.

Marc: The social for me, it’s all about getting people together, building a community, the amount of goodwill and knowledge and friendliness you get from other people who are in a similar situation to you, it’s not comparable to anything, if you haven’t got that in life, it makes it very difficult to move on with sight loss.

I enjoy the event as much as anyone else does and I have met a lot of good people through all the social events over the twelve or so years I’ve been doing them. These things are great to build lifelong friendships. Building the community as I say, that to me it what it’s all about, is building that community. 

Jeff: I’m quite looking forward to the next event that is being set up, axe throwing. I’m really looking forward to that. 

Marc: What’s that? 

Jeff: Axe throwing. 

Marc: Oh axe throwing [Laughs].

Marc: I do have to say that that’s not a sight support event, just for legal reasons [Everyone laughs]. 

Narrator: These events give everyone the chance to share V.I. hacks; hints and tips that you learn along the way.

Nikki: You’ll be saying something like I washed my hair with body lotion today and another V.I. person will say ‘oh no, that’s easy just put a hair bobble round the body lotion’ and you can’t get the two bottles mixed up. 

Marc: They’d laugh at you first though. 

Nikki: Oh yeah! That’s what friends are for doesn’t matter if you can see or not. 

Marc: That’s the great thing about it isn’t it having that camaraderie. 

Nikki: And then the rest of the evening is not talking about being blind or the difficulties, it’s just normal conversation that anyone would have in a group. 

Jeff: Yes, that’s quite an important thing that is because as part of a V.I. community you do not want to be talking about your eye conditions all the time you want to sit back chill out, have a few Guinness. 

Marc: Have a few more [Laughter].

Jeff: Listen to some live music there or you know, even have Nikki do her Amy Winehouse and what have you, [Nikki laughs]. You know.

Sound design: Karaoke and sounds of socialising in the pub, segues into co-hosts and the end of Part 1.


Nikki: Right we’re at the end of my journey Jeff. Your turn. 

Jeff: But first let’s take a short break. Let’s go into it with a final poem from you. I love this one.

Sound design: Music segue from hosts to subtle poem soundscape.

Nikki reading poem – ‘Over there’:

There is one special place I’ve been longing to go, 

a magical place all the sighted folk know. 

It’s the one place I’ve dreamed I’ll eventually find 

but evades me because I am partially blind. 

When I get there I’ll find useful things by the score, 

shopping baskets, my phone, all my friends and the door. 

The ladies room, taxi rank, V.I. convention, 

and the girl who thinks waving will catch my attention. 

I’m joined in my mission, a quest that is shared, 

with thousands of people, all visually impaired. 

We’re seeking to find the elusive location, 

no braille maps or guides to give us inspiration. 

Determined, undaunted and bound to succeed, 

we’ll arrive at the place that hides all that we need, 

the bountiful paradise around here somewhere,

the mythical place that is called, over there!

End of Part 1


Part 2


Jeff: Welcome back to ‘Gorilla on a Mini Moto’. My name is Jeff Daniels. 

Nikki: And I’m Nikki Durston. 

Jeff: And we are your co-hosts.

Nikki: Right, let’s get started. 

Jeff – Pre-Intro 

Sound design: Journey theme into immersive forest, birds, breeze, leaves.

Jeff: I love it when it’s a breezy day and you get the breezes and you actually just sat there with your eyes closed and you hear the rustling of the leaves and different sounds and different smells and that to me is music 

Sound design: Segues into city journey sounds.

Jeff and Aimee – Intro

Narrator: Jeff’s journey.

Jeff: And this is the place where I took my daughters to their first ballet. They absolutely loved it. Me, well, it was OK [Both laugh].

Narrator: That’s Jeff on his journey, with Aimee, his travelling companion. They know each other from a pub where Aimee works and where Jeff has been running jamming sessions. 

Sound design: Segue into Arnolfini soundscape, background sounds of pre-journey workshop.

Narrator: A bit earlier at Arnolfini, after some sighted guiding training, Amy has spotted the refreshments table.

Jeff: Would I like a cup of tea? I don’t think we’ve got time for a cup of tea. I think in a very short time we’ll be going out and about.

Narrator: But Amy isn’t taking no for an answer. 

Jeff: Amy is currently making me a lovely cup of coffee and a cup of tea for herself I believe. 

Narrator: And they set off, heading for Jeff’s first stopping point on his journey, and as they do that, we’re taking a different kind of journey, to find out a bit about Jeff.

Sound design: Sound portal opens up as journey music starts. We travel from city journey to the welsh countryside, with a touch of male welsh voice choirs thrown in.

Jeff’s Backstory

Co-Host Nikki: Jeff is originally from Wales, the land of song.

Sound design: Welsh nature sounds. An immersive moment with Jeff and horses.

Jeff: I come from a little town in the lovely county of Pembrokeshire. My mother was a seamstress, my father was a reupholsterer. We moved up to the Swansea area, a place called Achgren just outside Pont-y-Dowie when I was approximately eight-and-a-half, nine years of age because my grandfather just died and my father felt he needed to move back to help my grandmother run the farm. 

Sound design: Welsh farm soundscape.

Jeff: The farm was a lovely place because I really enjoyed the animals, the horses, the pigs, the chickens, they were all over the place and my grandmother, she loved her cats so there were always about twelve, maybe fifteen cats around the place. 

Co-Host Nikki: Jeff’s father was also a jockey. 

Jeff: He himself broke in his first horse, when he was eight years of age, so, me having exactly the same name, it was my duty, as it was, to try and do the same thing. 

Co-Host Nikki: Which was to break in a young colt named Bolt! 

Jeff: Dad put me on the horse, holding the horse and then let me go and then I’d get thrown off, and it was probably, I think it was thirty-two times I got thrown off the horse. So, Dad says ‘no, no, we’ve got to break the horse in now’ you know, and so he jumped on and virtually within a few minutes, he’d broken the horse in.

Co-Host Nikki: But Jeff says it was only because he’d tired it out first!

Jeff: And that was always the joke, the banter, many, many years on, up until the day he died. Whenever that story came out it was ‘I broke the horse in’, ‘no, I broke the horse in’. So, I have really fond memories of the farm to be honest. 

Sound design: Segues back into city journey with the sound of a cane on the pavement.

Canes, Tricks and Strategies

Narrator: Back in the city journey, Jeff and Aimee have made their way over the cobbles and uneven pavements outside Arnolfini and crossed over Pero’s Bridge. Jeff has been showing Aimee how he uses the long cane to navigate, letting her hold it in her hand and sweep it across the cobbles, feeling the surface of the ground through the cane. 

Sound design: Sound of cane sweeping over cobbles and different textures. 


Nikki: That section between the Arnolfini and Pero’s bridge, there’s so many different textures of pavement along there, you can really pick up a lot. Is it time we talked about canes Jeff? 

Jeff: Yes let’s go to the conversation we had with our friend Marc.

Sound design: Cane on cobbles segues into city journey soundscape.

Marc: So noticing things as you’re walking from further ahead, just using the peripheral vision, I think it does, it means I can walk a bit quicker and it means that I look less blind. 

Narrator: Here’s Marc, on the city journey he took with travelling companion Letty.

Marc: So, sometimes people are ‘oh there’s nothing wrong with you’ and it’s because I notice things all around me, using the very edges of my vision and picking up on what could be a hazard, so when there is a potential hazard I do slow down. Other than that I do barrel around quite quickly as you have probably noticed. 

Narrator: Marc and Letty met a few months ago. Marc has been advising on accessibility for the new exhibition about to open at Arnolfini, where Letty works, so taking a journey together is a new experience for them both.

Marc: And you notice yourself that people are moving their kids out the way quickly? I often hear parents talking to their kids. The kid will ask ‘what’s he doing, what’s that stick for?’ and the parents won’t explain to them, they are almost embarrassed by it, that their kids are asking a question. You should always educate your children if they ask questions about any disability.

Narrator: There are different types of cane and specific cane training. 

Marc: So many people don’t know what to do and a lot of people freeze on the spot and again that can be a hazard, because if I’m walking straight ahead and if somebody stops on the shoreline…

Narrator: Shore-lining is a specific long cane technique used to follow the edge, or “shoreline,” of the travel path.

Marc: [cont.] The shoreline being close to the building, then chances are I’m going to hit their ankles. 

Co-host Jeff: So we asked Mark to talk us through the different types of cane.

Marc: When I went blind, first off I used to use a symbol cane, a small white one normally seventy centimetres long, trouble is I found it isn’t always that noticed by people. Yeah, so I then went on to using a guide cane, I did go through all phases of using a guide cane to a long cane. A guide cane is slightly thicker than a symbol cane, you’ve probably seen it, it’s one that you tap. The long cane, which are the ones with the balls on the end, they are called constant contact. Although some people double tap. The difference between a guide cane and a long cane is with a guide cane you’re using it to confirm where something is whereas with a long cane you are using it to find where things are. The symbol cane I always found it too small, so I moved onto a long cane.  

Narrator: Jeff, Marc and Nikki all use long canes to navigate the city. 

Marc: I always found with a long cane; I wrote a blog called ‘Moses of the High Street’. First time I used a long cane it was literally just like that. It was like parting the red seas of people. You’re walking up the high street with your cane and people move. 

Sound design: Seas of people being parted.

Narrator: And then there’s the ‘clues’ our travellers all use to find the way.

Nikki: We’ve talked about what my rehabilitation officer called primary clues, and these are things that never move, they are always there every time you come along, so the pavement textures and drain covers and lamp posts, all of those things never move, they are always there, so they help you to realise where you are on your route. You’ve also got secondary clues and that could be, for example, if you walk past a school or a playground at a certain time of the day you can hear all the children playing and you know, ‘OK, I am walking past the school’ but that’s only happening at a certain time of day. The same thing can be said walking past Greggs. So, smells and sounds and textures are secondary clues that, when they are available, they will help you know where you are. 

Jeff: I’ve had this discussion with Nikki where A-boards. 

Co-host Nikki: Which I see as obstacles.

Jeff: I actually whack the A-boards because they are my way markers, because they are usually in the same place every day. I actually look at a lot of things as way markers rather than obstacles and so everybody will have their own viewpoint on that. I’m one of those people with a cane, I class myself as a whacker because I really do whack my thing from left to side and I like it when I hit the lamp post and it rings out, it is almost like a bit of music as I am going around the road: ‘ching, bing, hit the bin, bong, hit the bus stop, bang’. 

Marc: Drum kit on the way home. 

Sound design: Music of the city cane drum kit takes over and immerses us. A palate cleanse that segues back to the original sound of the cane at the beginning of this section and the emerging soundscape of College Green.

Cathedral – City Journey and Sight Loss 

Sound design: City sounds – skateboards and fountains. 

Narrator: We’re back in Jeff and Aimee’s journey. They have arrived at College Green, a central grassed area, with paved pathways, a sprinkling of trees and surrounded by historic and civic buildings, including the cathedral, which is the first stopping point Jeff has chosen to visit on his city journey.

Jeff:  We’ve just been inside the cathedral for a bit of peace and quiet, which it always seems to have. But it’s quite an important place for me, because after having to give up the job I used to do, which is an electrician, moved to Bristol, because I had worked up here for nine months prior to losing, having to give up driving.

Sound design: Back to the welsh soundscape.

Narrator: Jeff was diagnosed with high myopia as a child. High myopia is shortsightedness that can come with the risk of developing other eye conditions. 

Jeff: My parents were told that the progression of the myopia would actually probably render me totally blind by the time I’m in my late teens, unless we can stop it, reverse it. 

Narrator: To help slow down its progression Jeff was one of the youngest ever children in Pembrokeshire to be given what’s called the full eye contact lens.

Jeff: It was a lot of trial and error but in due respect it did actually stop the progression of sight loss. 

Narrator: His sight remained problematic, with a series of retinal detachments leaving him blind in one eye at nineteen and a tear on the retina needing laser treatment at the age of twenty-seven.

Jeff: Then at thirty, second of January, woke up and, you know, I didn’t really feel anything strange at the time, just went for a walk with the dog, bought the paper, got back, put the paper on the table, made a coffee, getting ready for work, sat down for the coffee and read the paper and I realised, except for the big print, the main headlights, when I looked at anything else it was conversion and it just wasn’t making sense to my brain and I realised something was up. 

Narrator: He cancelled work, arranged for his brother to drive him to the eye specialist, where he was told that the tear on his retina had opened up again

Jeff: And I said well what can you do about it? And he said ‘absolutely nothing’ that blind spot is going to be permanent and he said, you know, you know and it was really hard at the time because basically he just said to me ‘you drive don’t you?’ and I said ‘yeah it necessitates my job’. The bottom line was, the specialist at the time, he says: ‘you won’t be able to drive anymore’, so it’s like all in one day everything came to a halt. 

Sound design: Creates a moment to let this sink in.

Narrator: At this time Jeff was married with two daughters and working as an electrician. There was no way to continue with the job he had been doing. His local area’s unsatisfactory rehabilitation service kept him waiting eighteen months, during which time Jeff’s sight deteriorated even further. So, he decided to act.

Jeff: I had worked up in Bristol on a contract in ‘86 / ’87, stayed in Bedminster and basically got to know Bristol. I just said it one day ‘let’s move to Bristol’ and I thought my wife was going to say no, but after a few conversations we made a decision. Eight weeks later we were living in Bristol. 

Sound design: Journey music segues into sounds of College Green, outside the cathedral square, at the same moment we left.

Narrator: Back in Bristol on the city journey, Jeff and Amy are in the same spot, and in the same moment that we left them. 

Jeff: And I went through the process of going to college up in Hereford for two years and then back in Bristol, and then going to university for three years and getting my HND in business information systems and my BA Honours in business admin, but this building was where we had the big cap and gown ceremony. 

Sound design: We hear the cap and gown moment: echoing footsteps, cheering and clapping as mortar boards are thrown into the air.

Narrator: This was a pivotal moment in Jeff’s life.

Back to Work

Sound design: Creates different sound space, tone and energy. 

Narrator: Jeff’s journey back to work was over twenty years ago now. To do that he underwent rehabilitation training. Here’s Marc again.

Marc: So rehab is more along the lines of route training, everyday living skills in the kitchen for example, looking at lighting, just managing around the home. They do do technology but they’re not trainers, IT trainers as such. 

Narrator: Took specialist IT courses. 

Jeff: It was a six week intensive course at the Manor House in Torquay, so I went from never using a keyboard in my life to walking out from there six weeks later doing forty words a minute with hundred percent accuracy, yeah, and that was the start of learning all about computers and all that sort of thing.

Narrator: Some things have changed since then.

Marc: Whereas before there perhaps wasn’t as much, or certainly the technology that was available was nowhere near as smart. If you look at electronic magnification systems of fifteen to twenty years ago, nowhere near what they are now, we would never have had a smartphone before so you couldn’t navigate or get yourself around to new places with any kind of ease. The access to work itself, when you look at things like smart cameras, you can take a photograph of print and have it read back to you. Your computers have all got voice output and input, and that technology just gives us a level playing field. 

Jeff: When I was actually an IT trainer for the RNIB we used to have a programme which usually lasted about six months. It was a complete package to help someone get back into work and a lot of the time now, we can actually do that in six weeks now. It’s quite phenomenal how smart technology has moved things on.

Narrator: Jeff also received access to work, a government grant scheme.

Marc: And of course the access to work as well gives you the ability to get transport in, to and from work and during work. Technology wise and equipment wise they do cover, for most people, the entire cost of it, and I know people that have used the access to work and gone on to achieve a great many things in careers. There’s people that have gone onto sports jobs, for example there are people that are running their own businesses now that I know of, there’s loads of different avenues you can go down. 

Sound design: Starts to signal the end to section.

Narrator: Jeff has had a diverse and successful working life since sight loss, although he is retired now. However blind and partially sighted people are still more likely to be unemployed than the general population, but let’s get back to Jeff’s city journey now.

Sound design: Underscores this and segues back to city journey.

Jeff – Music Venues: Colston, Hippodrome, St George’s

Sound design: Journey through music from Jeff’s story creates journey momentum.

Co-host Jeff: I designed my city journey to go through venues I love. I wanted to show how the vibrancy of the culture, live music and performance that was now on my doorstep became a driving force in my adjustment to city life. 

Sound design: Segues into sounds of city, then sounds of Bristol Beacon [Colston Hall] foyer and music. 

Narrator: We rejoin Jeff and Aimee on their city journey, some way from where we left them. They’ve crossed the busy city centre, gone a short distance up Colston Street and have stopped next to an imposing landmark building, part Bristol Byzantine, part copper and glass modernism, currently surrounded by building works.

Jeff: Right we’re sat outside the Colston Hall. 

Narrator: Now renamed the Bristol Beacon. 

Jeff: What’s important about this particular building is we’ve now got the new part to it. 

Narrator: The copper and glass bit. 

Jeff: And it is quite different coming into the new annex and the different sounds you get and the reason I’ve come here is the many, many times I have come to this venue, to listen to some fantastic music, and that includes orchestras, Mavis Staples, Tommy Emmanuel.

Sound design: Segue into a guitar piece.

Jeff: My children loved coming here as well when they were younger, because they actually play live music here free of charge, you can just come in for a coffee. 

Sound design: Immersive sound of Bristol Beacon [Colston Hall] foyer. 

Narrator: Jeff’s love of music started well before moving to Bristol, but coming to Bristol opened everything up.

Jeff: My first love of music in Bristol was actually at The Plough in Easton because when I was studying at Uni Friday night was let off night. DJ Derek would play there.

Narrator: A legendary Bristol DJ. 

Jeff: The reggae music was awesome. I’ve always loved reggae music. 

Sound design: Reggae plays.

Narrator: It was just completely different to where he’d come from.

Jeff: You know I moved to Bristol I had come from a little town called Milford Haven which I’d spent a lot of time in and you know, we had one little theatre, one cinema, plenty of pubs but very little live music. There were so many different types of music and Easton I feel is a very vibrant area, mainly because of, it is multicultural.

Narrator: Jeff was taking guitar lessons at the Bristol Folk House, when he, and some of his fellow students, got an invite. 

Jeff: We were invited to go to a session called ‘Jamming for the Terrified’, which was run by, I think it was the Orchard Theatre Group here in Bristol. It was just for six weeks I think all together, located at various pubs. We had the six weeks and then after that, you know, that part of it came to a halt. I just said, well, OK, find a location, let’s rejig the name because we’re not as terrified as we were before, and we’ll call it ‘Jamming for the Not So Terrified’, and we’re still running today! 

Co-host Nikki: Jeff teaches guitar now, he’s worked out a way of teaching other visually impaired people to play. In fact he’s teaching me.

Sound design: Guitar music segues into city journey sounds and takes us to the Hippodrome.

Narrator: Amy and Jeff have moved on and are now standing on St Augustine’s parade.

Jeff: Right our second stop is outside the Hippodrome.  

Narrator: The city’s very own West End theatre and the place where Jeff took his daughters to their first ballet.

Jeff: [Both laughing merrily] Ballet is not my sort of thing but fathers, as they must, take their daughters to places even if they don’t want to go. Another young lady I came here to see is, erm, Vanessa, yes it is, Vanessa-Mae.

Aimee: Yeah, the violinist yeah, the electronic violinist. I love her. ‘Da da diddle diddle da dah’! 

Jeff: Yes, there’s been lots of shows we’ve come to here and, again, it’s all about music as far as I’m concerned and that’s why I love this city. 

Sound design: Outside noises and the sound of birds in trees begins to fade into blues music.

Narrator: We’ve arrived at the last stop on Jeff’s journey, a grand church like building with elegant pillars and a great flight of steps leading up to it, just off busy Park Street.

Jeff: Come here to listen to Mud Morganfield, the son of Muddy Waters, the great blues player and singer. 

Sound design: A singer plays the blues.

Narrator: St Georges, one of the UK’s leading concert halls and a much-loved Bristol music venue.

Jeff: And er, it was absolutely brilliant, as he explained to us, he didn’t know his father that well, he wasn’t really brought up with his father and the interesting story is that it was only after his father died, he started singing. He was a trucker, yeah, going right across America all the time. But after his father died, that’s when he went professional, basically he took over where his father left off in a way.

Narrator: A story that chimed with Jeff, something to do with how traumatic loss can cause a person to take a new path, much as Jeff had done, taking up the challenge of his new life in Bristol.

Haptic Baton

Narrator: We’re still at St Georges, but inside, in the new more accessible foyer. Jeff is telling Aimee about another experience he had here, where a ground-breaking invention for blind musicians, was being tried out.

Jeff: Just last year I went to the haptic baton premier where they were actually using it for the first time in the country, and they had the South Korean Blind Orchestra and the British Para…

Narrator: The British Paraorchestra, based in Bristol. They are the world’s only large-scale professional ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians. They partnered with Human Instruments, who are innovators of accessible musical instrument technology, to test out the haptic baton.

Sound design: Orchestral music plays, interspersed with the soft vibrating noise of the haptic baton.

Jeff: And basically each person was fitted out with devices on their wrists and their ankles and, even the blind, when the baton is being moved around by the conductor.

Narrator: It is designed to replicate the movement of a conductor’s baton by transmitting wireless signals, communicating the precise movements of the conductor, to devices worn by visually impaired musicians, then those devices translate those signals into vibrations, which enable the musicians to follow the conductor. 

Sound design: Paraorchestra music swells.

Jeff: And he actually done impromptu playing, so it’s not just a set piece, that they know exactly where to come in, he started playing impromptu and getting certain people to play at certain times. 

Narrator: It’s an innovation that could mean that world class blind musicians, will no longer be held back from joining world class orchestras. 

Tech and the City

Sound design: Sounds of Arnolfini, chatter in background.

Aimee: I just want to say thank you to you Jeff, this has really opened my eyes.

Narrator: Once back at Arnolfini, Aimee has been sharing how much the journey has taught her about Jeff’s way of navigating the city and Jeff has been surprised by how much he enjoyed the company of his sighted guide and the feeling of freedom it had given him.

But right now they’re talking about technology and the city.

Jeff: If my parents were alive now and they saw me speaking into a watch right or software that is talking to me, they wouldn’t have perceived that. They would never have perceived what we’re using today technology wise. 

Aimee: Yeah, it’s crazy, isn’t it?

Jeff: It is crazy.


Nikki: I know I’m tech-phobic but I know that technology has changed a lot for visually impaired people in all sorts of ways. Which is why we thought we’d hear from someone who knows their stuff on the matter. 

Stephen Hilton

Steve: On the ground floor, just next to the front door they are putting in a pop-up cafe bar. 

Rachel and Holly [In unison]: Oooaahhhhh!

Co-host Nikki: So that’s Steve Hilton, on a zoom call, with Rachel and Holly, our two project directors. 

Narrator: Steve has been working at the cutting edge of digital technologies and the city for over twenty years. Like PECo theatre, the producers of this podcast, he is a resident at the Pervasive Media Studio, based at Bristol’s Watershed, who are also supporters of the City of Threads project.

Steve: So, I’m Steve Hilton. I wear a sort of multitude of hats at different times. I run my own business called City Global Futures, I’m a fellow at the University of Bristol and I’ve also been working as a digital place making fellow which I can tell you a bit more about. I’ve actually been in Bristol for twenty years now, I moved here to work for the City Council.

Narrator: One of the first projects Steve developed in the early 2000s, was a citizen’s panel, that used the internet to share views and encourage discussion between people in the city.

Sound design:  Elements of Digital city/tech sounds/ambience at times underscoring Steve speaking.

Steve: And that was really what got me interested in technology and from there most of the work that I have done since has had a flavour of digital and how that can bring new opportunities and new projects and new ideas into fruition, that have some sort of value to the place. 

So, we ended up working on what became called Smart Cities. A lot of people associate Smart Cities with efficiency and data and surveillance and, and there’s some truth in all of those things, but in Bristol we tried to use the term to sort of create a different meaning. We tried to think about how cities could be smart not because they controlled everything from a central point but because they knew how to engage people and how to co-create new opportunities that meant that technology could be used in different ways in the city and so a lot of my work has been around that experimentation. 

Co-host Nikki: And are visually impaired people considered in this? 

Steve: I’m somebody who is quite severely visually impaired, I have had a visual impairment since I was born. So, whilst it hasn’t been explicitly my job, if you like, to focus on visual impairment. It’s always been something I’ve had to do, because you know, it is part of who I am and therefore if I am designing something or involved in something I have to think really hard about, is this something you know, that will be accessible. I think in terms of visual impairment and Smart Cities. There’s been bespoke projects that I’ve seen and connected with over the years. Lots to do with wayfinding. Lots to do with trying to orientate people with visual impairments within cities. I guess, few of them have achieved a sort of mainstream impact. Which has been a frustration because I think, you know, the opportunities around helping people to navigate cities with visual impairments are huge. I guess where I see some light now is that those ambitions are perhaps starting to become a bit more mainstream. So, you have, you know, big corporates such as Microsoft investing in apps that are specifically designed for people who are blind or visually impaired, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t quite a long way to go.

Co-host Nikki: And what is digital placemaking?

Steve: Places don’t just pop up without some element of design. As we walk around the city everything that’s there has been designed by somebody at some point. Often they are not designed with the needs of people with disabilities or visual impairments in mind and I guess the idea of digital placemaking is to think about how technology and connectivity plays in to all that, and how do we design virtual and physical spaces that are more inclusive and more accessible to everybody.

Through my research, we have started to explore this idea of whether we need to reclaim our maps. Maybe we need digital maps of Bristol designed by local people. Maybe if you have a visual impairment, like I do, you need a different type of map? I am not really interested in a map that shows me how to drive around a city. Many of the landmarks on my phone. As I walk around, I can’t see them! The things that are on the map that I receive on my phone are not the things I’m stood next to. So the sorts of map that I might need is very different from the sort of map that somebody might need who is primarily interested in driving. So I like that idea that digital placemaking can open up an opportunity for us to create different ways of presenting the city and its physicality to different people, depending on who they are, what they are and what they are trying to do at any particular point.  


Jeff: I can really relate to that. I already use lots of tech to navigate the city but it’s really exciting to think about a digital map developed with me in mind. 

Nikki: That is brilliant but I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the world of technology.

Jeff: I wasn’t a big technology fan until I lost my sight but it’s given me a lot of independence, and that means the world.

Nature and Freedom

Sound design: Sounds of the forest.

Jeff: I love it when it’s a breezy day and you get the breezes and you actually just sat there with your eyes closed and you hear the rustling of the leaves and different sounds, and even smells, and that to me is music. 

Narrator: We’re back with Jeff in the forest. Despite the lure of the city and the freedom he has found here, and his embracing of technology, Jeff still seeks out places in nature in which to be and it’s still where he feels most at home and free. 

Sound design: Sounds of the forest weave with guitar music.

Jeff: A lot of the times, yes, I will bring my guitar because actually that peacefulness I feel when I am there, actually allows me to freely just play the guitar, and just moving the capo around the fret, got to the seventh fret and got this sound that I really liked. Just sitting there, closing your eyes, and just listening to everything around you.

Sound design: Guitar and forest continue to play calmly.


Sound design: Guitar segues into journey music 


Nikki: Well, we’ve come to the end of our episode. I know our stories are very different Jeff, but I think one of the things that connects them, is the way our sight loss meant we both had to deal with really big and unexpected changes in our life journeys. Becoming visually impaired was never something I ever expected would happen to me. 

Jeff: Well Nikki, sometimes you think you’re doing one thing and then all of a sudden life gives you a gorilla on a mini moto! 

Sound design: Journey theme music with a gorilla on a mini moto driving through it.

Narrator: And as our episode comes to a close, perhaps some story or moment in it has struck a chord with you? Perhaps a shared experience or a new reflection? Loss can lead us all to take new paths, make unexpected connections or surprising discoveries, even to find a place, and a new sense of belonging, that we may not otherwise have known. 


Jeff: We’ll be handing the baton over to our fellow City of Threads team mates for the next episode.

Nikki: But first we’d recommend you tune in to the sister episode of ‘Gorilla on a Mini Moto’.

Jeff: Where, through the magic of immersive sound, we’ll take you deeper into the heart of some of the places and moments in our journeys. 

Nikki: So you get to experience the city, in our shoes. 

Jeff: Best listened to on headphones! 

Narrator: To find out more about these podcasts and the people featured in this episode, you can find additional information at: www.partexchangeco.org.uk

Sound design: Theme music swells, takes over and plays out.